Sounds of Shillong echo in Mumbai
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Sounds of Shillong echo in Mumbai

The album, Jacket to Shillong, by the blues outfit, Soulmate, wafts out the songs and sounds of adoration, desire and self-doubt.

india Updated: Feb 07, 2006 16:29 IST

The album Jacket to Shillong, by the blues outfit Soulmate, depicts an open yellow window. From this unbolted window waft out the songs and sounds of adoration, desire and the occasional soupçon of self-doubt. The Shillong-based Soulmate’s debut effort is made all the more interesting because of the Indian intonation. The four-year-old Soulmate comprises Rudy Wallang and Tipriti, with Fredy and Sam filling in as session players with the bass guitar and drums respectively.

The mere suggestion of Northeast India is fraught. On a map, this left arm of India might appear as though it is flailing around in search of greater recognition and force. But Wallang feels it is changing for the better, “The gap is closing. With the Right to Information Act among other things, people here are increasingly aware of their rights. In fact at this point in time Shillong could easily be called the unofficial music capital of the Northeast.”

Accentuating Wallang’s previous statement is the 11th Roots Festival that just concluded in Shillong. The festival also featured the Delhi-

 The soulmates strike a pose

based jazz-fusion band HFT and a blues band from Australia.

Back in Mumbai, with an auditorium heaving with ears akimbo the recent concert by blues legend Buddy Guy was a triumph. But how easy was/ it for a new-fangled band to find itself a few interested ears? Wallang thinks they’ve had it easy “To tell you the truth we have been pretty lucky. I have studio at home in Shillong so we recorded the album there.

The marketing would have been difficult but the label Only Much Louder liked our sound, stepped in and agreed to market it.” Though blues as a musical genre has always vehiculated political dissent, Shillong is anything but a tool of protest. With regards to Shillong though Wallang says, “There was no conscious attempt to say away from politics. This is an album from the heart and it’s a tribute to our hometown of Shillong.”

The album is devoid of any overarching angst. It on the contrary touched by the undulating rhythms of love. On songs like The Price and Love You the engaging ache of love and its many shenanigans are played out with care and precision.

Tipriti’s smoky voice spawns an intricate web of emotions that is comparable to her contemporaries like Rachel Yamagata. On songs like Blues is my soulmate she comes across as a feisty, knuckle breaking, boot grinding temptress while she mouths words like, I can play my guitar/ It’s my whipping post/ It can take a real beating/ Unlike most/ Oh! Yeah…When I play the blues.

Wallang’s lyrics though they cannot be termed as facile could do with some layering and the smothering of certain overt references. His voice and guitar playing though are a joyous experience and in need of no recommendations.

It has been a delight discovering the smooth but never lightweight music of Soulmate, a respite from the loungy and at times insipid sounds of say a Norah Jones. Shillong Rs 199, Only Much Louder, available at Furtados Dhobi Talao, Marine Drive.

First Published: Feb 07, 2006 12:05 IST